THE FOURTH PETITION.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Here we take into consideration the necessaries of our bodies and temporal life. And these words, although they are brief and simple, are, however, very comprehensive. For if you pray for, and mention daily bread, you pray for all that pertains to the possession and enjoyment of daily bread; and, on the other hand, you deprecate all that tends to withhold it. You should, therefore, expand your thoughts, so that they may extend, not only to the limits of a kneading-tray or of an oven, but to the most distant fields and over the whole country, which bring forth and produce daily bread and every species of nourishment for us. For if God did not permit all kinds of fruits to grow out of the earth, and bless them, and preserve them from destruction, we would never draw any bread out of the oven, nor have any to put on the table.
But in order to speak briefly, this petition includes all that pertains to this life, since on account of it alone we must have daily bread. Now, it is not sufficient for life, that our bodies have food and raiment, and other necessities alone, but it is necessary for us also to enjoy peace and tranquility among those persons, with whom we live and converse, and with whom we carry on our daily transactions, negotiations, and contracts of every kind, and in short, whatever blongs both to domestic and political or civil matters and government; for if these two are interrupted, so that they do not proceed as they should, the necessaries of life are also intercepted, so that they, finally, cannot be procured. And it is truly a matter of the greatest necessity to pray for civil authority and government, since through these, God mostly preserves our daily bread and the tranquil condition of this life. For, although we may have obtained an abundance of all kinds of good from God, yet we are unable to preserve any of them, or to use them securely and joyfully, if he would not give us a permanent and a peaceful government. For wherever hostilities, contentions, and wars exist, there daily bread is already taken away, or at least diminished.
Wherefore the armorial sign of each pious prince might justly be the picture of a loaf of bread, instead of the image of a lion or of a chaplet of rue, or it might be stamped on the coin for an impression, to remind both them and their subjects, that through their princely office we have protection and peace, and that without them we could neither eat nor retain this indispensable bread; for which reason, they are also worthy of all honor, so that we should yield unto them the duties we owe and are able to discharge, as to those through whom we enjoy with peace and tranquility all that we have, when otherwise we could not preserve a farthing. And besides, we should pray for them, so that God may give unto us, through them, the greater blessings and abundance.
Thus we have exhibited and delineated, in the briefest manner, how far this petition extends through the various kinds of intercourse on earth. And out of it we might make a long prayer, and enumerate all those parts which belong to it; as for instance, to pray God to give us meat and drink, raiment, house and home, and health of body; moreover, to permit grain and fruits to grow and prosper in the fields; and finally, to aid us in transacting our domestic duties properly, and to bless us with pious companions, children, and domestics, and to protect them; to permit our labors, our professions, or in whatever we may be occupied, to increase and prosper, and to provide us with faithful neighbors and good friends. Again, to entreat God to grant to emperors, kings, and all estates, and especially to the prince of our country, to all consuls, peers, and prefects, wisdom, fortitude, and success in ruling well, and in triumphing victoriously over the Turk and all our enemies; to grant to the subjects and the common multitude to live in obedience, peace, and concord among each other; and again, to protect us against all temporal injuries, such as destructive fires, tempests, inundations, pestilence, distempers, venom, wars, bloodshed, famine, wild beasts, and wicked people. All of which it is necessary to impress on the minds of the inexperienced, showing them that all blessings must be received of God, and prayed for by us.
But especially is this petition directed against our chief enemy, the devil. For it is his whole wish and desire to take away or withhold all that we receive from God. Nor is he content with perplexing and disturbing spiritual government, by deceiving the souls of men through his falsehoods, and bringing them under his power; but he also exerts every power within himself to prevent the existence of any government, or of honorable and peaceful administration of affairs upon earth– here he excites so many litigations, slaughters, seditions, and wars; moreover, he sends tempests and hail to destroy the fruits; he infests the flocks with contagions; he pollutes the atmosphere with poison. And in a word, it is painful to him to see any one receive a morsel of bread from God, and to eat it in peace; and if it lay within his power, and if he were not checked by our prayers, (through God,) we should most assuredly not retain a straw on the field, or a farthing in the house, yes, not even our life a single hour; especially those of us who observe the Word of God, and wish to be Christians.
Thus God wishes to exhibit to us how solicitous he is about all our wants, and how faithfully he provides for our temporal support. And although he grants and preserves these blessings bountifully, even for the ungodly and the knave; yet he desires us to pray for those things, in order that we may acknowledge that we receive them from his munificent hand, and that we perceive in them his paternal goodness towards us. For if he should withdraw his hand, nothing could prosper, nor finally be preserved, as indeed we see and feel daily. What kind of misery now exists in the world in consequence of spurious coin, yes, of daily oppressions and exactions in ordinary commerce, contracts, business, and labors, of those, who according to their own wanton desires, oppress the unfortunate, and withhold from them their daily bread?– things indeed which we must suffer; but they must take heed, that they do not lose this common prayer; and they should guard themselves, lest this portion of the Lord's Prayer should operate against them.